I never really liked the format of ranking every player in the draft on a big board, because it feels too decisive to have an exact rank for everybody based on incomplete analysis on incomplete information.
GMs drafting don’t need to rank anybody, they just need to look into the best targets at their range and pick the one they believe will be best.
So for this board I will do my best to rank everybody since that’s how everybody is used to consuming draft information. But I am going to focus on narrating how I would approach the draft in different ranges if I was choosing for a team.
Further I will try to be transparent about the uncertainty I have, as many of the prospects in this draft are not that interesting to me, but I don’t want to actively bet on them being bad.
I already went into detail on the top players with an attempt to rank them, although I don’t have any strong opinion on how to rank #s 2 thru 4. They are all guys I would rather trade the pick than draft, and I am unsure who I would rate the highest with a deep analysis of complete information.
#1 Player Worth Drafting:
1. Onyeka Okongwu
This may seem like a hot take, as Okongwu is somewhat lacking in sex appeal for a #1 overall pick. He is an undersized big who is somewhat limited on offense, so the lack of top 3 hype is understandable at a glance.
But everybody else projected to go top 3 is based on sheer potential with serious risks of flopping. Whereas Okongwu is the one prospect in the draft who seems likely to be good.
It starts with his defensive potential, as he is 6’9″ with 7’2″ wingspan, good athleticism, and anchored an elite USC defense. He showed the ability to protect the rim as well as switch onto perimeter players and create turnovers. Even though he is traditionally undersized, his versatility could make him the ideal big man for the modern NBA.
Offensively, he is a good finisher and made 72% FT, showing some potential to develop a 3 point shot. His handle is likely too weak for him to live up to Bam in terms of creation, but he could carve out his own mold of goodness that is slightly different.
Players with enough potential to consider drafting top 4, but likely smarter to trade the pick instead:
Ball, Wiseman, and Edwards all are weak as potential top 3 picks. If forced to choose between these three, I would try to trade the pick as very likely somebody else will rate each of them higher than I do . They all carry risk of being duds, and it’s hard to get too excited about any of their upsides as top 3 guys.
I don’t have a strong opinion on how to order them, but here’s my best guess:
2. James Wiseman
Wiseman is lacking in meat to his profile, as his AAU sample showed a horribly limited player. But he has good physical tools, and showed a major improvement in the Nike Hoop Summit as well as his tiny 3 game sample in Memphis.
There’s such limited info on him it’s difficult to be confident in his goodness. Fairly often he will be a boring big who is not particularly rare or useful, as his lack of instincts and motor could render him into an obsolete and boring big.
But there’s the possibility that he has good work ethic and off court intelligence, and that he genuinely made a major leap from high school to college and could develop into a LaMarcus Aldridge or Serge Ibaka type.
Ultimately there’s not enough information that establishes him as a clearly good prospect to feel comfortable drafting him in the top 3, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he found a path to success given his physical profile and glimpses of excellence at Memphis.
3. LaMelo Ball
On paper, Ball is the most talented prospect in the draft as a 6’7″ triple double machine PG. But there are serious questions as to whether it is worth investing a #1 overall pick in him.
He is completely apathetic on defense, and even Lonzo says that LaMelo never tried on defense growing up. Further, in ESPN’s recent feature of him, he says he doesn’t care about scouting reports on his opponents because nobody can stay in front of him. The article later mentions that he doesn’t enjoy talking about his shooting and simply says “I can shoot, no problem there.”
This theme carried over to Mike Schmitz breakdown of defensive film with LaMelo. Both times that Schmitz asks him what he’s doing to work on his defense (17:40 and 20:13) he gives generic and vague answers in the vein of “I’m just learning.”
His apathy toward defense and lack of interest in discussing his weaknesses are pretty big flags for a kid who has historically opted for flash over substance and likens himself to Kobe.
LaMelo has unique strengths, but also unique weaknesses and if he is not committed to addressing them and improving them he’s just not going to be that good. He is not as humble or wired to win as his brother Lonzo, and you are basically praying that the offspring of Lavar Ball changes these habits as he ages. Which is possible– he is hardly 19. But is it really something that is wise to stake a high value draft pick on?
He seems similar to D’Angelo Russell, and lots of times even when he hits he will still be overpaid and frustrating like D’Angelo because his defense weighs him down so heavily.
Ultimately LaMelo should be #1 overall from a talent perspective, but there are flags that make it terrifying to actually invest a #1 overall pick in him. Who knows– it may prove to be the correct move in the longterm but personally I would rather not ride this roller coaster and trade down.
4. Anthony Edwards
Edwards is long, athletic, and capable of scoring volume for a SG, and other than that he is full of concerns.
He isn’t a natural passer, he isn’t good on defense, he doesn’t get to the rim as often as you would hope, and his best weapon is his off the dribble shooting where he made just 29% from 3 as a freshman for Georgia.
His appeal is that he is very young and made 77% FT with a high 3PA rate. If he develops into a good shot maker and fills out the rest of his game decently enough, he could be something like a bigger Eric Gordon which is nice.
But the archetype of chucking SG who doesn’t have any clear strengths besides volume scoring is rigged to disappoint a huge % of the time. His median outcome is going to be something like a more chuckerish version of KCP, and that’s not what you want to target in the top 3.
Players worth drafting in the top 10:
5. Pat Williams
Williams is 6’8″, athletic, super young, and capable of making shots on offense and plays on defense. This is the type of player where you just don’t overthink things and draft him in case he figures it out.
That said, he comes with plenty of warts. He still is more comfortable from mid-range than 3, as he shot 32% from 3 on a lowish volume. And while he made 83.8% FT, it’s a small sample with just 74 attempts. He also could be better rebounding for a player with his tools, and while he had very good steal and block rates he still isn’t a lockdown man to man defensive player.
And while his wingspan is decent enough at 6’11”, it’s still not in elite range that gives him really strong upside.
But he nevertheless has more upside than most, and athletic 6’8″ 3 + D wings are one of the most coveted molds in the modern NBA. He is largely a gamble on youth and tools, but they give him an easier path to usefulness and a better upside tail than most prospects in the draft.
Haliburton is one of the weirdest prospects in the draft. He has exceptionally good stats, but they all come with asterisks.
He made 42.6% from 3 and 77.5% FT in his college career, but his shooting form looks awkward and it’s difficult to be confident in his shooting going forward.
He has good rebounds and great steals and blocks, but his rail thin frame makes him prone to getting bullied on defense.
As a sophomore he improved significantly as a scorer and is an excellent passer, but he still puts limited pressure on the rim and almost never gets to the free throw line.
For a 6’5″ guy, he’s too small to guard wings and he may not have the ball skills to make a big offensive impact.
In many regards he is similar to Lonzo Ball, as both have excellent vision, IQ, and height for a PG but limited strength, athleticism, and scoring abilities. It’s possible that he similarly struggles to score in the NBA, but is worse in other regards as he is smaller and skinnier.
But he also may happen to be a better shot maker who offers similar goodness to Lonzo otherwise in a more well rounded package.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to ever see him being a star lead guard, but he can be a hyper-efficient, high IQ role player.
Haliburton isn’t the sexiest type of player to target in the mid-lottery, but with lack of other options, why not gamble on one of the few players who was able to stuff the stat sheet and may be able to find a highly useful niche as an NBA role player.
Guys who are not terrible but are awfully boring in the lottery
After Haliburton and Williams are gone, there’s not much to get excited about to fill out the lottery. I’d try to trade down if anybody were interested, but if forced to choose here are the guys that seem worth considering:
7. Devin Vassell
Vassell is just a solid role playing wing. 6’7 with 6’10 wingspan, good steals and blocks, good efficiency, and a microscopic turnover rate, he fits the 3 + D mold that is highly coveted in today’s NBA.
He is on the thin side, and it’s worth questioning exactly how good his shooting is as he made 41.7% 3P but just 72% FT in his 2 years at Florida State. And he’s not an athlete or creator with unique upside, and may be slightly small for wing which limits his appeal.
He has a clear path to efficient role player, but his lack of size and creation may inhibit his upside.
He probably belongs in top 10 by default due to easy path to being decent, but he is pretty limited and boring for a top 10 guy.
8. Kira Lewis
Lewis is one of the fastest players in the class with great ability to pressure the rim, and he showed potential to score at all 3 levels impressively given his age.
He is 6’3″ and not a natural floor general with a mediocre assist:TOV rate, as he is still learning how to play point guard. He may never be able to run an offense at a high level, and may be limited to a bench microwave like Lou Williams to get his scoring on the court.
But he only turned 19 in April, and if he does figure out how to play PG and hold his own on defense, he has one of the better upside tails in the late lottery. He comes with risk but is worth a close look once the blue chips come off the board.
9. Josh Green
Green is in a boring mold. At 6’6″ with 6’10” wingspan, he is a bit small for a wing, and it shows with his pedestrian rebound rate.
Offensively, he has traces of guard skills. He can get to the rim and finish at times, he has a good assist to turnover (3.4 vs 2.1 per 4)), and he made 78% of his free throws and 36% of his 3’s as a freshman.
But he has a relatively low 3PA rate which leaves questions about his shooting, and doesn’t have enough shake to be a primary handler. He is decisively a complementary player on offense, which limits his upside given his size.
His main strength is his defense, as he is an intelligent and athletic defensive player who loves to study film, and it shows as he was good both in man to man and posted a good steal rate.
He has the ability to be a quality defensive player in the NBA, but he would be much more exciting if he was 1 or 2 inches taller as he is essentially a wing in a SG body. That said, he has a rare intersection of athleticism and intelligence that he applies to defense, and this cannot be ignored for a guy who is competent offensively.
Green isn’t dripping with upside, but he has a clear path to useful NBA player. He is comparable to Devin Vassell in terms of dimensions and role, and could be relatively good value if he slides to the late teens or 20s as currently projected.
10. Jalen Smith
Smith is a somewhat boring big, but he is good. He is fluid and athletic, and can score both inside and out making 75% FT and 36.8% 3P as a sophomore.
He is also a good rebounder and shotblocker, and was one of the best NCAA players this past season as he led Maryland to the best season ever by a team coached by Mark Turgeon.
At 6’10” with 7’2″ wingspan with a skinny frame, he is slightly undersized for a center by traditional standards. But given modern trends, he may be ideal for the mold given his shooting, shot blocking, and mobility to give him outs to switch.
The only unsexy thing is his assist rate dropped as a sophomore to have 1.0 per 40 vs 2.2 assists. And he has a pedestrian steal rate, which limits expectations for how much success we can really expect him to have guarding perimeter.
Smith doesn’t have the sexiest upside tail, but he is an efficient cog that does a number of things well and likely will have a useful NBA career.
11. Killian Hayes
Hayes has a funky distribution of traits, with excellent size for a PG at 6’5″ to go with great vision and FT%, making 85.8% from the line over the past 3 years. This is especially impressive considering he just turned 19.
But he fails to back up that FT% with success beyond the arc, as he has made just 27.8% from 3 over that stretch. He also is a non-elite athlete with limited ability to pressure the rim. Long term he needs to convert his FT% success to shot making from the field in order to have value as a lead guard.
He also had an extremely high turnover rate, and being an unathletic limited creator and a turnover machine at PG and probably not that good on defense are a ton of warts that make it risky to get too excited over him as many on draft twitter rate Hayes as a top 3. He very well could be a Kendall Marshall type and make the twitter hype look preposterous in retrospect.
Personally, I have no idea what to expect from him. I don’t have the best grasp on the German league, and he has such a funky distribution it’s difficult to envision how he will actually look in the NBA.
If I were drafting in the late lottery I would definitely give Hayes a closer look as it’s plausible he is value in that range. But as it is I have no real opinion
2nd round Steals:
These guys are all projected to go in round 2. It’s difficult to rank them compared to the boring lotto guys, but they don’t seem notably worse than most of them so this is where they will get stashed on this list:
12. Jah’mius Ramsey
Ramsey is one of the more exciting boom or bust prospects in the draft. He is definitely as guard at 6’4″, but is very coordinated and has the ability to score at all 3 levels.
He is small for a SG with a mere 6’6″ wingspan, but he makes plays on defense with good steals, blocks, and rebounds for his size.
Offensively, he isn’t a pure point guard and there are questions about his shooting as he only made 64.1% FT as a freshman.
He has plenty of warts that give him bust potential, but Ramsey is young, talented, and has clear potential to emerge as the best guard in the class longterm.
13. Vernon Carey
Carey is an archaic big, as he is a 6’10” bully with questionable ability to guard the perimeter.
But the guy had a super productive season for Duke, and would be the clear #1 overall as recently as 2015. He has a workable outside shot, he has outs to be good on defense, and it’s far too soon to quit on this type of player completely.
Carey is an excellent player in an unsexy mold, and there are only so many bad players in good molds that can be taken ahead of him before it makes sense to pull the trigger.
14. Devon Dotson
Dotson challenges Lewis for fastest player in the class, and he also excels at getting to the rim and finishing.
The main reason why Dotson is behind Lewis, is that he is smaller and 20 months older, while also having worse assist rate and 3P%. These are non-trivial warts and largely account for why he is currently projected to go in round 2.
Dotson is no doubt the weaker raw talent than Lewis, as his passing and shooting are serious warts considering his size and age. But unlike all of the super young mystery boxes slated to go ahead of him, Dotson is actually really good at basketball right now.
He posted the highest steal rate by a Kansas player since Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson in 2008 for the best Kansas defense since the 2008 championship team. And the defense significantly declined in the limited time he spent on the bench.
His dimensions of 6’2″ with 6’3.25″ wingspan limit his defensive upside, but Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry show that outlier little guys can be good defensively. Dotson is unlikely to match those studs defensively, but he is a pest with excellent quickness and anticipation, and one of the best defensive small PG prospects in recent memory.
Offensively, he is the best guard in the draft at creating his own shot at the rim in the halfcourt and finishing, as he uses his excellent speed to get to the rim and soft touch to finish with efficiency. He also draws a healthy FT rate, and made 82.8% as a soph and 80.7% over his two years at Kansas.
Collectively he was an efficient, high usage two way player who was the best player on the best NCAA team. He only has the passing and 3 point shooting warts holding back his longterm stock.
Bill Self historically suppresses assists in guards, and given Dotson’s excellent defensive anticipation, it’s plausible that he can develop into more of a passer than he showed at Kansas. And he made 33.2% of his 3’s in his two years at Kansas, and given his good FT% he can develop into a good 3 point shooter in the NBA. Neither of these flaws are fatal.
So long as the shooting comes around, Dotson should be a useful pro. Even if he isn’t a true offensive hub, he can nevertheless pair well with star wings like Doncic, Simmons, Harden, Giannis, etc. And if he shooting and passing both come around, he has some seriously sneaky upside in the NBA.
Ultimately there is a ton to like about Dotson, and a few unpleasant warts. But little guys are often big value when they can play, and Dotson has the athleticism, he seems to have the IQ, and he has a portion of the skills necessary to succeed in the NBA. If he just develops the rest he will check all of the boxes and could be a steal if he goes in round 2 as currently slated.
Guys who I would not draft but not may be terrible
This is a common theme for many of the the prospects projected to go mid-late 1st this year. These guys are largely players that I would not target personally, but may not necessarily be bad picks.
15. Saddiq Bey
Bey is very unathletic, but is 6’8″ with a good basketball IQ, can handle, pass, avoid mistakes, and make shots. It’s easy to see him fitting in as an NBA role player.
One minor concern is how good is his shooting, really? He made 41.8% of his 3’s at Villanova, but shot just 72.8% from FT with his mechanics looking awkward. He should be a decent to good NBA shooter, but if a team is expecting an elite shooter they will likely be disappointed
What’s interesting is that for such a poor athlete, Bey did well switched onto fast and skilled guards such as Devon Dotson. That’s impressive for a 6’8″ guy whose main flaw is athleticism.
Bey is drawing near dead to be a star, but it’s very easy to see him being useful as a 6’8″ guy who does all of the role player things so well.
Bey’s shooting ability is too murky to be a player I would actively target in the draft, but it’s easy to see him paying off decently enough for whoever takes him.
16. Isaac Okoro
Okoro is similar to Josh Green in that he is a defensive specialist who is undersized for a wing at 6’6″. But with a 6’8.5″ wingspan he has even shorter arms, and is a worse team defender than Green with much lower steal rate.
Wings with his mediocre steal rate are almost never great defenders, and his poor rebound rate adds an additional flag to fret over.
It’s difficult to get enthused about man to man defense at SG as the sole defining trait of a player who is not a good shooter, making 67% FT and 29% 3P as a freshman with hardly more assists than turnovers.
Okoro’s most common outcome is decent defensive player who is limited on offense and overall not too useful.
His hope is that he is good at getting to the rim and finishing, and is physical drawing a high volume of free throws. If his shooting and ball skills develop at an outlier rate, he can be a solid SG on both ends similar to Norman Powell.
But Powell was a good return on a mid 2nd rounder and had an insane shooting leap from NCAA to NBA. How high can we really take Okoro based on that hope?
Okoro is tricky because he has a number of likable traits for a SF, but has the dimensions of a small SG. Personally I would not be comfortable investing in him given his flaws, but I also wouldn’t sharply criticize a team for taking him late lotto.
17. Precious Achiuwa
Precious is an inefficient trainwreck offensively, but at 6’9″ with 7’1.5″ wingspan and good motor and athleticism, he has the tools to be a versatile defensive player in the NBA.
It’s difficult to feel good about his offense with 1.3 assists vs 3.7 turnovers per 40, 60% FT, and he turned 21 in September. Most of the time this will submarine his value as a pro.
It largely depends on how well the fat trims from his game offensively. If it goes well, he is in a great mold for an NBA role playing wing. But it’s a huge gamble as he may be an inefficient trainwreck offensively nullifying everything attractive about him.
He’s not a guy who I would be comfortable gambling on in the lotto but it could plausibly work for whoever does.
18. Obi Toppin
Obi is a largely one dimensional explosive finisher who offers a passable outside shooting and passing for his size and not much else.
His big flaw is that he is likely going to be a turnstile on D, as he is vertically explosive but does poorly laterally. And he is a suspiciously poor offensive rebounder for his size and athleticism, as well as being senior aged as a sophomore turning 22 in March.
Obi can likely post decent box score stats to look valuable, but his real value will likely always trail his box score because of his defense. It’s difficult to see him being better than Montrezl Harrell, and there is zero justification for taking him in the top 5.
19. RJ Hampton
RJ looks like Dante Exum’s long lost twin and has a number of similarities in his profile.
He is 6’5″ athletic combo guard who is capable of making plays defensively, but is limited offensively as he is not a natural point guard or a shooter.
If he can develop his offensive skills, he can be a solid SG on both ends. But right now, there’s just not enough meat offensively to get excited for a 6’5″ player.
20. Cole Anthony
Cole was a possible #1 overall pick until a disastrous freshman season for UNC completely tanked his shot.
He is likely better than he performed for UNC, but there are questions about how useful he can be in the NBA. He is a 6’3″ combo guard whose main value is his pull up jump shooting, and he is old for a freshman having turned 20 in May.
He may be constrained to being a bench scorer as he may not have the instincts to lead an offense.
He has a number of similarities to Austin Rivers, being the son of an NBA player with significant hype that he failed to live up to. But Rivers ended up coming around to being a mediocre bench player, and Anthony seems more talented than Rivers.
There’s not a sexy upside outcome, but he can have a decent NBA career and somewhere in the mid-1st feels about right for him.
21. Tyrese Maxey
Maxey is an ultra boring prospect, as he is a 6’3″ combo guard who isn’t really good at anything.
But as is true with all Calipari prospects, there is always the possibility that he is much better than the stat sheet shows.
Maxey is decent at getting to the rim, and he made 83% of his FT in spite of shooting only 29% from 3. So he could develop into a decent scorer if his FT% is more indicative of his shooting than his 3P%.
If he has more PG skills than he showed at Kentucky, there’s no reason why he can’t have a decent NBA career.
But he does feel much more boring than the typical Kentucky prospect, as he is most similar to guys like Brandon Knight and Malik Monk.
22. Deni Avdija
Deni is a mediocre prospect in an excellent mold. He is 6’9″ with good mobility, good IQ, and the possibility of learning to shoot. If his shooting comes around and his defense is as good as advertised, there is very little resistance to him being a useful NBA player.
But at the same time, he is drawing near dead to be a star. He has short arms and his athleticism is only decent, and he lacks the handle to be a high volume shot creator. And there is a chance his shooting is busted, as his makes just 59% of his free throws.
Most of the time he will be a bench player who isn’t coveted. But if his shooting and defense prove to be real, he is a solid 3 + D who can switch on to a wide variety of NBA players.
Late 1st and round 2 sleepers:
For the record I don’t think everybody in the above tier is necessarily better than everybody in this tier. They are ranked higher because they are largely projected to go much earlier, and this is an easier way to order everything such that the rankings aren’t dripping with hot takes all over the place.
But in contrast to the lottery, round 2 has some surprisingly interesting hidden gems this year
23. Xavier Tillman
It’s difficult to look at Tillman without noticing the uncanny comparisons to fellow Michigan State alum Draymond Green. Both are exceptionally good and well rounded players who failed to garner much hype due to being too slow to play the perimeter and too small to be a big.
But then it turned out Draymond was actually capable of guarding anybody because of his elite intelligence and instincts. Tillman had a slightly lower steal and assist rate, so there’s no guarantee he can overcome his lack of explosiveness like Draymond did.
But X is very intelligent in his own and an inch taller and longer at 6’8″ with a 7’2″ wingspan. He’s also a better shotblocker than Draymond, and may be overall closer to Paul Millsap.
Of course there’s no guarantee he is nearly as good as either– he isn’t very good offensively which in tandem with limited athleticism isn’t the best mix. But at least he has a couple of exciting upside comps who were also excellent draft steals. If this mold has succeeded in the past, it could be a mistake to draft too many bad players in more exciting molds ahead of him.
24. Reggie Perry
Perry offers unique offensive skill for a 6’10” player who is a solid athlete and can handle, pass, and shoot.
There are questions about his ability to defend in space, but he doesn’t seem completely doomed here and offers far too much offensive skill to let slide to round 2.
He could be a big steal if he proves to be competent defensively longterm.
25. Jordan Nwora
Nwora offers a good combination of dimensions, frame, and shooting. At 6’7.5″ with 6’10.5″ with a thick body, he is the ideal size for an NBA wing and is a good shooter to boot.
He is prone to tunnel vision and there are questions about his defense, but he has such a good baseline of size and shooting that it’s likely correct to just not let him slide too far and hope he figures it all out as a 3 + D.
26. Zeke Nnaji
Nnaji is a smooth and skilled big that can score inside and rebound, and has potential to develop into a guy who switches and makes 3’s.
He is another somewhat unsexy big that doesn’t quite have star potential, but if his shooting and switchability come around he’s going to be a very useful piece.
27. Paul Reed
Reed has great physical tools at 6’9″ with 7’2″ wingspan, good athleticism, and excellent defensive playmaking ability. He has potential to be a switchable defensive playmaker who makes a huge impact on that end.
The question lies in his offense, where he is sorely limited. He only made 33/102 3’s in 3 seasons at DePaul, but he did shoot 74.6% from FT to have some hope of developing into a long range shooter in time.
28. Tre Jones
Like his brother Tyus, Jones is a somewhat boring game manager point guard.
But Tyus is a decent NBA rotation player, and Tre may be a bit more athletic. He probably shouldn’t slide all the way to round 2.
29. Isaiah Stewart
On one hand, Stewart is bruising big who is rapidly going obsolete in the modern NBA.
On the other hand, he has an excellent 7’4″ wingspan, made a solid 77.4% FT as an overall productive freshman, and was #2 RSCI freshman who only turned 19 in May.
It’s difficult to envision his precise role in the NBA, but he has some interesting strengths. There’s a bit of sleeper potential here, I
30. Aleksej Pokusevski
One of the weirdest players in the class. Poku is 7’0 tall with excellent instincts, and a unique combination of handling and passing for his height while being the youngest player in the draft, turning 19 in December.
He also uses his dimensions as a playmaker defensively– in FIBA u18 in 2019, he averaged 2.6 steals and 4.1 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game to go with 4 assists. All #’s that for a 7 footer imply extreme upside.
After seeing Nikola Jokic dominate in the playoffs, teams may not want to let another funky Euro 7 footer with excellent instincts slide too far, as this typically creates a big upside tail.
But Poku also has enormous and grotesque warts that Jokic lacked. He is rail thin and looks like he has poor health. And he has no shake or explosiveness, and in FIBA averaged 10.3 points per game shooting a horrific 29.1% FG.
He sorely needs his outside shooting to come around, because he completely lacks the athleticism and physicality to finish in traffic.
Also he missed 3 months with a knee injury and his brother needed surgery to have his calf removed. His genetics are so poor there are serious questions about his ability to stay healthy longterm.
Plenty of skinny prospects have succeeded in the NBA, but most of them like Durant, Garnett, Bosh, etc. are athletic black guys with much more bone density than Poku. He looks frail and fragile, and a significant % of the time his career will get derailed by injury.
On the occasions where he is healthy enough to be available, there is the concern that gets relentlessly bullied on defense, and that his handle amounts to little offense if he cannot score.
The median outcome for Poku is bust. He likely will be not durable enough and/or not good enough to fit in the NBA.
But he has such unique strengths for a 7 footer, we cannot rule out his upside whatsoever. Maybe there’s a scenario where he becomes something like a poor man’s Andrei Kirilenko where he isn’t much of a scorer but makes so many other plays that he is nevertheless highly valuable.
The Kirilenko comparison is a longshot, but for a prospect with such huge strengths it cannot be discarded entirely.
Overall Poku is extremely difficult to analyze because he has so much polarity and weirdness, and is a basically a shot in the dark on upside that will probably miss.
I personally wouldn’t be excited to draft him, but he has enough unique strengths such that it’s completely reasonable to gamble on him in the late 1st as a boom or bust lotto ticket.
Others (in no particular order)
Nesmith is projected to go mid-1st right now, but he seems like an incredibly risky guy to take anywhere in round 1. He is an undersized, unathletic wing who is probably going to be bad on defense and is limited as a creator.
His only real strength is that he is a good shooter, but it’s not even clear that he’s elite at his one dimenson. He made 82.5% FT in his NCAA career which is good but not great, and he only shot 33.7% from 3 as a freshman. His breakout as a sophomore entailed 52.2% 3P shooting for half a season until getting hurt, although it came for an incredibly weak portion of Vanderbilt’s schedule.
This is significant as Nesmith has a somewhat slow release for such a vaunted shooting prospect, and if he really is a merely good shooter he is going to be a dud.
Woodard averaged a paltry 13.7 points per 40 as a 20 year old sophomore wing. Outside of scoring his profile is fairly ordinary as well, so there’s really no reason why he should be drafted at all.
Bane is a popular sleeper in round 1, but he comes with heavy warts. He has a paltry 6’4″ wingspan and is unathletic and incapable of pressuring the rim, which makes him a really low upside role player.
He is a good shooter and has a high IQ and good at avoiding mistakes, but that may not be enough to amount to much given his heavy flaws. His strengths need to be outlier to justify drafting such a poor physical profile in round 1.
He could be a serviceable role player much like Brad Wanamaker who also played for Jamie Dixon. That’s the type of prospect who belongs in round 2.
These are all small point guards who are very difficult to predict. Winston, Malachi, and Nico all seem like early 2nd round values, but I really don’t know with them. Maybe they are better or maybe they are worse.
The main point here is that it doesn’t make sense that Markus Howard is currently slated to go undrafted. He is only 5’11” with short arms and is not a true PG, with barely more assists than turnovers (4.1 vs 3.9 per 40) in his NCAA career.
But he rebounds just barely well enough to fit in physically, and he is the most lights out shooter in the draft making 42.7% from 3 on high volume and 88.2% FT in his 4 year career at Marquette.
He is also exceptionally young for a senior, having turned 21 in March he is younger than the average junior and more than a full year younger than sophomore Obi Toppin.
If Howard goes undrafted, he will be one of the top UDFA’s to look at as he seems to belong in a similar tier to these other small guards who are projected to go late 1st or early 2nd.